The Uniting Church in Australia has expressed deep concern for the Pacific nation of Tuvalu as it faces a devastating drought.
Rev Tafue Molu Lusama the General Secretary of Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT – the Christian Church of Tuvalu) wrote advising that on Wednesday the 28th September the Tuvalu government declared Tuvalu to be in a state of emergency due to water shortage resulting from five months of continuous drought.
“Most severe are the southern islands of Nukulaelae which is experiencing a difficult time with water shortage and local food as well,” said Mr Lusama. “The coconut tree tops has started falling off, breadfruit trees are dead, banana plantations are dried up, and ever the traditional pulaka pits are rotten all because of the drought.
“Here on the capital Funafuti, the government has sealed all the water catchments on the island and whatever little water that is left is rationed to all people at a ration of about 20 litres per household.”
He went on to say that as they face this serious challenge due to climate change the EKT is trying to do what it can to assist the people most affected.
The Uniting Church in Australia has encouraged the Australian Government to offer emergency relief to Tuvalu in the midst of its current crisis.
National Director of the Uniting Church’s international agency UnitingWorld Rev Dr Kerry Enright has said the situation also raises longer-term issues.
“At the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting urgency was accorded the need to attend to the major issues of mitigation and adaptation,” Dr Enright said. “The Uniting Church in Australia encourages the Australian Government to keep addressing climate change mitigation and to attend to the financing of adaptation.”
The Uniting Church has a long history of partnership with Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu which represents around 97% of the Tuvalu population.
UnitingWorld Associate Director for Church Solidarity in the Pacific Mr Bruce Mullan believes Australia also needs to address the issue of resettlement of people due to climate change so that resettlement can be managed in a safe and timely way.
At its 10th Assembly in 2003 the Uniting Church in Australia called on the Australian government to offer the guarantee of special immigration status to the people of Tuvalu, for immigration to Australia when their nation loses its viability for human habitation.
Mr Mullan said this resolution arose from a request from both the Prime Minister of Tuvalu and the President of the EKT to the UCA President to advocate for them in relation to the effects of climate change on their country.
“The drought suggests that the loss of viability for human habitation on Tuvalu is closer than we thought,” he said. “We are possibly facing a potential human disaster of tragic proportions.”
Mr Mullan also described major overcrowding on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati.
“We ask the Australian Government to look at the possibility of an orderly but open and welcoming immigration policy for the citizens of Tuvalu and Kiribati.”
He addressed members of the 29th Synod on the work of UnitingWorld and drew this issue to their attention. Moderator, Rev Kaye Ronalds, responded by offering a moment of silence and prayer for the people of Tuvalu and Kiribati.